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Southern Africa Jewish Genealogy SA-SIG

The Schwartz Saga
by Manfred J. Schwartz ©2001

Editor: Dr Saul Issroff
Copyright © 2005 Saul Issroff, Mike Getz, SAfrica SIG
and Jewishgen Inc.
Date: 27 November 2005


In deciding to compile a list of some of the people, who were in the business and commercial world, in the earlier portion of this century, I salute you, by way of this record. South Africa was a repository for so many people looking for a future.These people, our people, had left Europe for various reasons, hoping and succeeding, in creating a better life for themselves and others who lived, in this wonderful Sunny South Africa.
We who have roots in Eastern Europe, the PARUvians, (from the early Kimberley days, when the English and German Jews dominated, and the other Jews were considered inferior. They were referred to as the Polish and Russian Union) due to their having formed their own club to counteract their non-acceptance by the others, and were dominant till the early 30's, when the influx of mainly German Jews came to this country bringing their energy, skills, thoroughness and work ethic.
It is ironic that many who could not gain entry into either the Union or to Southern Rhodesia were able and lucky to get into Swaziland and Northern Rhodesia, but not in great numbers, by any means.
I am part of an unique family, it has to be unique, if I am part of it. No other family can boast such an achievement, fortunately. Our family was large, what with those of the families of the people who married into our core family, virtually everyone is a relative of ours, all the many machatonim.
The pferd fuss potkewah laymans' idea of relationship psychology, between the horse and the nail which attaches the horse-shoe to the horse's hoof (none at all) come into play very strongly.
However no one can deny that our family consists of a very fine group of people, and there was that grand fellow feeling towards each other, which does not exist to the same extent nowadays. There is the quaint explanation to the query "what is the difference between sympathy and jealousy?" The reply being "sympathy is a fellow feeling, while jealousy is another fellow feeling."
We needed and thrived on that belonging together feeling of not begrudging the other persons' success, hoping to one day to also reach that pinnacle.
As a starting point, I choose Bloemfontein, seeing that I began there, having been born there three quarters of a century ago, at 6 Prettyman Road.
My grandfather Abram Leib had emigrated from Beylarus during the 1890's, and lived initially in Cape Town. His family followed him out and they reached Bloemfontein early in this century and had a house at l33 Zastron Street. I often think of one very hot Sunday when given the traditional chicken soup for lunch. Grandma Schwartz used to put saffron in the soup. I never knew then how very expensive this spice was, otherwise I might have relished her special presentation. When you are two years old, hot is hotter than for adults. For years to come I disliked soup with the consequence that I was not too keen on visiting that Grandmother. In any case they emigrated soon thereafter.

The three brothers: Dr Max Tzerney, Abraham Leib (Ariel) Schwartz and Cecil Alexander Schwartz.

Carmel Dolly with Grandpa Abraham Leib and Grandmother Deborah in the them Palestine about 1925 or 1926
In the next photo but in 1927 when we visited the grands in Rehovat Grandpa Abraham Leib aged about 57 and Dad Alex Cecil aged about 30 and Manfred Joseph 5 years old.
There was Hyam, and Dad, then Theodora Carmel (Dolly) and Harry, the ;atter two, were born in South Africa. Dad was born in White Russia and his birth certificate reads as follow; At the township of Minna on the 1st January 1897 to the citizen of the township Mir of the district Minsk, sub-district of Novogrudok To Abraham Leib son of Moses Tcherny and his wife Debora daughter of Zalmon a son was born to whom the name Alexander was assigned. The birth certificate was completed by the Public Rabbi of Sosnitz. Now on 2/11/2001 I have an updated translation of the certificate as follow;--
Subject: CHORNY/CHERNY Sosnitsa, Mena
Look like CHERNY what was really with different E and pronounce CHORNY or CHYORNY. The same in Russian that CHARNY in Polish or SCHWARTZ in Yiddish or SHOHOR in Hebrew. All those names appeared among Jews of Mir. I have suspicions that all Minsk Gubernia (province) CHARNYs originated from Mir, but it was earlier than the middle of the 1700s. The next 100 years still all rich Jews of Mir belong to the family. But the importance of the town diminished in the 19th century. Earlier there was castle of local highly independent feudal that ruled the area.
However the birth certificate refer to Sosnitsa of Sosnitsa uyezd (Ukraine) and another near town of Mena, also Ukraine. Possibly the family moved there earlier.
The certificate was given by Sosnitsa of Sosnitsa uyezd (district) communal Rabbi to confirm that in the Jewish birth records book of Sosnitsy for 1897 at #1-male listed the record:
“ In the m[estechko] (=shtetl) Mena (Meh – Nuh) January 1 of 1897 born a boy named Aleksandr to parents: Abram-Leiba Movshevich (son of Movsha) CHERNY (CHORNY), meshchanin (town commoner) of m[estechko] Mir of Novogrudok uyezd (district),Minsk Gubernia (province) and his wife Dveira Zalmanovna (daughter of Zalman).
Confirm and witness the record January 19 of 1897 in Sosnitsa
Official Rabbi of Sosnitsa A. (or L) LEVITSKY
As the Russians kept to the Julian calendar, the date of 1st January was in fact the 13th. Dad's birthdate, according to the Gregorian calendar accepted by the rest of the world. The difference of 12 days, brought the two systems into line.
With regard to the name Tcherny, the only explanation I can give is that as the first son would be exempted from army callup, the younger sons would be farmed out to relatives, presumably without their own sons, so as to avoid being conscripted into the Tzar's army. This is probably the reason that Grandpa assumed the German equivalent.
Now the famous and honoured literary figure Mendele Mokher Sefarim (of the books) was the first of the greats to write in Yiddish had the surname of Abramovitz, (Sholem Yacov) so this was Grandpa's mother's maiden name, as he was a close relative of Grandpa S. As with everything in life, when there was an opportunity to find out and learn about one's ancestors, the inclination was not there, hence when one now wants to fill in the gaps it is too late to glean that information. None of the family is alive today who would be able to place in position the missing pieces of our jigsaw puzzle.
There are family legends that Abraham Leib Schwartz, early in the 1900’s was offered the Wholesale Franchise for the Orange Free State, by Holt and Holt the manufacturers of Flag Cigarettes. He was a man of very high ethical and moral standards and principles. Being a non-smoker and non-drinker, he was not prepared to encourage (1) others to smoke, or drink, and to make money from their weaknesses, hence he turned down the opportunity to mint money.
If not for the integrity of Grandpa, we might all have never needed to ever work. Maybe things do turn out for the best in the end. Idleness is an evil of which none of us have ever suffered. He was also offered a liquor licence, which would have given him a virtual monopoly - again he turned down this money making chance, for no other reason than that he was not prepared to enrich himself and thereby gain, or make himself rich by making a living at the expense of others and be the cause of harm to them in any way.
He then established A. Schwartz & Co, Wholesale Merchants & Importers, at 13 St Andrews Street. They stocked saddlery, soft goods, blankets, shawls, shoes and materials such as Toto Print, which was much in demand. The indigenous women made up dresses from the blue print. The designs differed and certain clans kept to their own design, something like the Scottish Tartan belonging to a particular clan. When I was in Southern Rhodesia, I had an agency from a British manufacturer who specialised in the Toto type of print. Many tried to imitate this material. One firm went so far as to label his 1010, to confuse the illiterate. The samples which I had were popular in West Africa, except that they were not blue but a reddish brown. The scores of patterns and designs were the same as the blue toto prints.
As there were few factories in this Country then, virtually every commodity was imported from overseas. Most goods came from the U.K, the Continent, the U.S A and the cheap junk from Japan.
Wooden cases and wicker or cane baskets were used to ship out merchandise and the baskets were recycled by sending back for the return trip. The supplier would refill the skips and ship them back to the exporting country overseas. I have two of these relics, one still has the markings on a side 'A S & Co'
When the first Synagogue was built Grandfather Abram had the honour of laying the foundation stone. Subsequently when the new Shul was dedicated, the stone was salvaged and built into the walls of the new one.
When the reform Shul was purchased a few years ago, the foundation stone was again taken out of the wall, and placed in the renovated building. So grandpa's name lives on in Flowerfountain city.
Grandpa was as far from religion, as dear Grandma Debora was near to it But he never interfered with her pious attitude and co-operated in every way, irrespective of his convictions. I fear that most of his grand-children have followed in his footsteps. It is rumoured that he would assiduously attend services, but take a Hebrew novel with him, to read, and not a Siddur. No one ever noticed this lack of piety. Apparently there were a lot of pious congregants, but not too many learned ones amongst then.
I remember going to Shul with Dad, from about the age of two. We had Grandfather's seat, (after he had emigrated to the Holy Land), first seat, second row, left of the Ark facing. The spiritual leader was the Reverend Laurence, who was a bit of a tyrant - castigating his congregants from the pulpit at times.
Grandfather was an idealist, and an ardent Zionist. So much so that he sold up everything in 1924 and went with Grandma to Palestine, This Nationalistic attitude resulted in Dad and Mom entertaining dignitaries such as Jabotinsky, Weitzman and others, when they visited Bloemfontein.
The Grands lived in Rehobot, where he had shares with a Mr Yudelman in a Pardass, an orange orchard which must have been about a dunam or two, not very big at all.
We went to visit them in 1927. I still have snapshots of Grandma feeding her leghorn fowls.
One Saturday afternoon, Mr Yudelman sent his Arab driver and camel for me to ride. Being only five years old I was asleep, and the family did not want to wake me up. However when I woke up, Dad told be of the opportunity I had missed. I was rather upset, why had I not been called? And when would Mr Y again bring his camel round? I was informed that the Arab driver would not be available for some time to come. I proclaimed that it was of no importance now, as I would not have gone riding in any case. I was rather afraid of the Arabs, probable for the reason that these large or so it seemed enormous men, on tiny donkeys, symbolised cruelty. Even at that tender age I was overawed by them,
Prior to this, the only experience I had with other than white people, were the picturesque Basuto tribesmen in their multicoloured blankets and conical straw hats riding on the small Basuto ponies which were not as small as the donkeys used in the Middle East. My heart still goes out to the poor beasts whenever I see scenes of these over-loaded, long suffering, long-eared beasts of burden.
The Grands moved to 54 Maze Street, Tel Aviv, and apparently the only bomb that fell in that City during the 39-45 War injured Grandpa's leg with the result that he used crutches thereafter.
Incidentally, when grandmother Deborah passed away, she was buried, among the most pious of pious, in Tel Aviv not far from many eminent Rabbis.
UPDATE June 2002
Grandma was buried in Tel Aviv near to the site of the grave of Rabbi Moshe Avigdor Amiel (1883-1946) who was once chief Rabbi of Antwerp and being a religious Zionist went to Palestine and then was elected Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv in 1936 where he established a high school and Yeshiva.
A short while later a wealthy man passed away and his family wanted to have him buried there too. "Money no object!" they said. They were advised that "deeds not money" earn a resting place. Grandma Devora was buried in Tel Aviv in June 1945 and her deeds earned her a prestigious resting place.
Grandpa then came back to S.A. spending a few months with each of the four children and their families. He was buried in Bloemfontein in l960 as he had been staying with Carmel and Isaac on the farm in the Tweespruit district when he died.
The following update June 2002 - The inscription on his Tombstone reads as follows: "This distinguished person and great visionary soul our Father and beloved grandfather and guide Reb Avraham Aryeh Ben Moshe Schwartz died 29 Tishrei 5721 (20th Oct 1960) at the age of 92. He devoted his life to the Land of Israel, to the people and to its language. His image will never depart from us."
In 1917 Dad bought his first motor car, a Hudson, which gave so much trouble that he never had any faith in that make again. He served his apprenticeship on it. His mechanical aptitude stood him in good stead. He bought me a size three Meccano set on one overseas trip, and derived more pleasure in assembling and building sets for me than I did. However my job was to dismantle the toys and he would construct another for me to play with but I had to go to bed and leave him to it.
He used to work the country, calling on their customers in the Free State platteland. This gave him the opportunity of meeting and knowing so very many people. He was a most likeable man and genuinely liked people. I doubt if he ever did a dishonest act or told a lie. He was one of the most honourable of men I have ever known. His word was his bond.
When they had A S & Co, old Mr Reichenberg was the country representative and called on the customers in the Free State, I had a snapshot of him standing next to the Dodge Truck circa l924 and probably a half tonner. It had wire mesh sides and roll up canvas blinds to keep the rain out. All the samples were unpacked for the shopkeepers to view, then repacked into the skips and cases again.
The Birth of Dodge Trucks.
When the Dodges began production of cars in 1914 they were an immediate success. Many of the Dodge Brother's cars were cut down to make dependable light trucks even in those early years. The public and the Dodge dealers repeatedly asked the Brothers to produce a truck. After extensive testing The Dodge Boys determined that a light "Commercial Car" could be made on the existing car chassis and assembly line without disrupting the car production. Finally, in October 1917, the first commercial body style emerged from the Hamtramck factory into the waiting arms of the public and the U.S. Army. Thousands of Dodge Brothers trucks, with ambulance bodies, were sold to the U.S. Army for the war in Europe. The first Dodge Brothers truck was a pick up with heavy screens between the sides and the roof. The truck had a 1/2 ton capacity and was built on the successful 114 inch wheelbase car chassis. The trucks were for light delivery only and a fully enclosed panel version soon followed the screenside. From the dash forward the trucks were indistinguishable from the autos using the same dependable four cylinder engine, wood spoke wheels and even intermixed serial numbers. Just like the Dodge Brothers cars, there were no model years for the trucks, but they have spotting features to help identify approximate construction dates. The spotting feature for the earliest trucks, from 1917 to 1922, is the low hood which dips down from the dashboard out to the radiator. The truck cab has roadster style doors with no outside handles and the spare tyre is mounted on the driver's side. In 1922 major changes were made to the car and truck line including a taller radiator making the hood line almost straight out from the top of the dash. The panel and screenside trucks were still built on the 114 inch wheel base and limited to 1/2 ton loads. Outside door handles were added to the doors. In 1923 the wheel base was increased to 116 inches which allowed a larger cargo area and increased capacity up to 3/4 ton. Even though fully enclosed cars had been in production for several years, the trucks still had the half height doors and a roll down curtain to keep out the rain. Finally in 1925 the trucks were given full size steel doors with roll-up windows. The side mounted spare was moved to a rack under the rear of the bed.
Dr Maurice Block joined Dad in A S & Co as the administrative partner, leaving Dad to do the outside work. Dr Block, was a Dr of Philology, his wife Rosa made the loveliest of marble cakes.
She had her old mother, Mrs Friedman, staying with them, also Alex her brother and his wife. The Blocks' son Josie about one year senior to me, always a brilliant student becoming an eminent neurosurgeon and settled in Scotland. When we were children I remember the expression he was wont to use to define anything that was travelling very fast, it was 'Going like sixty.' This to him was the ultimate. Now that the world land speed record is in the region of 800 mph, I wonder how it would now correlate with his perception of motion, speed and velocity.
From about 1924 Dad would go overseas every year on a buying trip. He loved travelling. He went to Vienna, Prague, Buda-Pest, etc. On one trip to Vienna he had his tonsils taken out, Professor Neuman performed the operation using a local anaesthetic, and Dad in a dentists' chair. Afterwards he returned to his Hotel room and soothed his sore throat by eating ice cream for a few days He loved travelling and sent post cards to me telling of the wonderful sights and things there were to see. In one letter he wrote about the Alte Neuw Shul in Prague, which had one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe. It was also the home of the legend of the Golem, the half man half monster, which was a fabrication of the oppressed and suppressed Jews to lighten their dreary and unhappy lives.
The Golem would in their minds be their Knight in Shining Armour to rescue them and get them out of all their misery
In one post card Dad sent from Buda-Pest, that it was a very lovely city, and that one day maybe I too will be able to spend some time there. I have never been able to accomplish this mission, but by skipping one generation it has been achieved. Anthony and Nora went there in 1995. They were thrilled with everything they experienced. Their enthusiasm more than making up for my absence, not being a great adventurer or traveller I am pleased that they did the trip on my behalf.
I remember Dad bringing back from an annual overseas buying trip, two 16 inch bicycles for Josie Block and me. I learnt to ride my bike, down Reitz Street, from their house at 67, down towards Barney Aronstam’s parents' house. Barney was much older than I was, when you are five or six, the older boy seems to be ancient, and was at least six years my senior. Dad held the saddle and steadied me, while I pedalled. When I reached the bottom of the hill I turned round and discovered Dad was near the starting point, I ( was also startled) could not remount and ride back, nevertheless I could now ride.
I remember the funeral of Tielman Roos, the then finance minister, who had been instrumental in S.A. going off the gold standard, this was in 1932.
To complete the paternal side of the saga, Hyam went to England and got his degree in Chemical Engineering at Manchester University. He met a local girl, Peggy, the Rev. Solomon's daughter. Their only child is Olga but has no family. They went to Salisbury and he started a peanut oil expressing factory. with the Pitchanich brothers who took over the factory in 1934, when Hyam made an attempt to stand against and lost the seat to Godfrey Huggins, in the general election of that year, and who later became Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, He was knighted and became Sir Godfrey.
..Who said we were not an UNIQUE FAMILY?
Dad was his agent and sold the oil to the various bakers. I remember the oil being railed from Rhodesia packed in the ubiquitious four gallon tin, ready for delivery to the customers.
After his aspirations to become a politician had misfired, they came down to the Union and stayed with us in Kensington for a few months till they moved into a flat in Berea and then later on to 46 Daventry Court in Killarney, where I once stayed with them for a few months while at Wits. Anyway in 1935 Hyam took over the Premier Paper Mills at Klipriver and built it up. Here again Dad, was his agent for many years till eventually the Mackenzie Brothers and African Finance Co which they controlled, sold out, to ( I presume) one of the mining houses connected with Sappi.
Dad always maintained that if Hyam would have taken him in as a partner there would never have been the necessity to find wealthy partners, e.g. the Mackenzies, and the business would have been a family concern. The buildings were originally built for a Swede, one Krueger who had a match factory, very likely the first one in S A. even long before that of Lion Match at Stamford Hill, Durban.
Money was very tight in those years! Petrol which cost 17 pence a gallon at the pumps could be bought direct from the petrol companies and delivered to your door, for 16 pence a gallon. A saving of 6%, a most considerable amount of money! The two gallon red containers were returned to the oil company to be reused over and over again. I still have two or three of these metal cans, as well as the flexible metal pipe, which acted in place of a funnel. I remember Dad getting African Russian Oil Petrol at the AROP pumps at garages (no filling stations those days) when away from Bloemfontein.
Also when we lived in Port Elizabeth Grandpa Ginsberg used to buy petrol from the ROC pumps, this being the abbreviation for Rumanian Oil Company, this petrol was also one penny a gallon cheaper than other brands available. Carmel's sister in law Channa, the only Shevel girl, married Jacob Lurie, he was at one stage the Potato King, The Shevel brothers all started working for J.B. as managers and one by one went their own way, and left him. There were six or seven Shevel boys over the years with J.B. They made dashing pictures on their horses. I was only six or so, and admired these live cowboys who were all expert horsemen.
They were all, each in turn very good to me, no matter how much I might have been in the way
One Sunday we all went to another J.B. farm, Lakeside or Lakeview. All the Shevels were there for the picnic. I was impressed at the geselligheid, what with their singing of the (then) latest hits.
When I was at Wits in the very early 40's, I had my meals at the Milner Hotel in Braamfontein, which Israel Shevel owned, when I stayed at Phineus Court. This was a block of rooms occupied by mainly students, as it was virtually across the street from the University.
It was here that I shared a room with Melville Edelstein of East London, here was a brilliant fellow if ever there was. He was murdered in the riots at Soweto in the 1976's. He was working for the J.H.B. Municipality then, and as he had a Sociology Degree he was working on a programme to better the conditions for the locals and their sorry lifestyle and shocking way of life. This was the way he was repaid for his efforts to uplift the poorest of the poor. Gratitude misplaced!
My mate actually was Clem Lurie the younger son, he was a year older than I was. He was a farm boy and tough, whereas I was a townie and was only allowed to ride 20 year old Frank, a white horse with ginger freckles, along his neck. The Luries lived in an enormous long house, they had waterborne sewerage, and inside toilets, and also their own lighting plant.
The elder son, Lull was a real toughie, he had played rugby at school! HE WAS a farmer. They had hundreds of cattle, as these were the days before tractors, oxen were the work horses. I was told a story by an ex-neighbour, O.Kitchener Alright that one year, at a stock fair, J.B. sent in a couple of hundred oxen. After the first span came into the ring the price offered was too low so J.B. instructed his herdsmen to 'jag hulle uit' The second span did no better, and they too, were chased out of the ring. When the third span fared no better, J.B. had the entire herd sent home, this could only be accomplished by driving them through the sale ring. With so many beasts, it took an half hour or so, and caused the air to be filled with a dust cloud in the air for a longish while. The sale was over, there being no enthusiasm among the buyers. Thereafter when J.B. sent animals to a sale pen, he got good prices. I remember that they used to mill mealie cobs as supplementary feed for the thousands of sheep. This was the first time I had seen this usage, the cobs were generally burnt and the fibre wasted.
I remember going into the kitchen at Forteinfontein, quite early of a morning, and there was Mrs Lurie making beigels. This was the first time that I saw how the dough was put into boiling water and then baked. She was a very capable woman. She treated me like a son, as did J.B. who was fond of teasing me. He had a way of saying Ahaaaaaa Mamfy to me which caused me, to call him a bloody fool, he did not take it amiss, except that Mom gave me a telling off for being cheeky. I have a snapshot of me, on their lovely east-facing verandah, standing on a cane chair, all the furniture came from Madeira and was made of cane. This was gracious living, more especially as it was out on a plaas.
The following set of snaps were all taken on the Lurie farm at Tweespruit.
Now to Mountainview, the first farm Carmel and Isaac occupied. I was sent there when my sister Leonie was born, so as to be out of the way for a few days before and after the event, I was now eight and was allowed to ride Girlie, a patient, gentle, placid animal, she was used for taking the cans of milk to the creamery a few miles from the farm. The other horse on the farm was used by Isaac to go to the lands, etc. I might add that this was no patch on the Lurie spread. Wood-fired geyser in a cold bathroom. Jolly cold in winter! Also candles and paraffin lamps, no luxury such as at the Lurie's.
Isaac once told me that his brother in law J.B. gave him a span of oxen as a wedding present so that he could commence his farming operations, he also lent him a span as well to get him going No mention was ever made if any of the other accoutrements were supplied, eg trek chains, yokes, skeys, ploughs and skofflers, etc. J.B. helped each brother-in-law in turn, first by employing them, then helping them get started after they left him. I still remember old Mr Shevel. He had a 1929 Chev, and used to travel round buying skins and hides. We went to their house in Bloemfontein once, in or near Mark Graaf Street this was the first time that I had tsimmis and have never forgotten how tasty it was, also had my first taste of Mead. Myron's grandmother was a very good cook and a sweet old lady, a typical heimishe Mamma like Grandma Debora.
Thinking of hides and skins reminds me of when I was in Rhodesia, there was an elderly buyer of hides and skins, Harry Shur. He had a yard out in the industrial sites in Bulawayo, where he had a mountain of horns and hooves, they had been there for scores of years, when a buyer from Rumania came to him a bought the lot. In those days £25000.00 was a lot of money. As Harry didn't drive he had a driver, Paragha, who was almost as famous as his employer, they had been together for ages.
People thought him ignorant and illiterate as he couldn't write English, but he had been to Cheder in the Old Country, and was definitely literate. I knew a man in Salisbury who had been his bookkeeper and told me that they would go through the cheque book stubs together and Harry would say exactly what he had bought and the quantity, etc., pertaining to each cash cheque given for purchases.
While on the subject of the bookkeeper, by the name of Haimowitz, who when he arrived in Beira from Rumania had to foot-slog. There was no railway line into the hinterland, and due to tsetse fly, there was no means of any draught animal transport. He walked via Umtali and Salisbury to Broken Hill, Lusaka, and Ndola in Northern Rhodesia to Elizabethville in the Belgium Congo. It must be in the region of 1000 miles, or more from the coast. I think he said that the journey took 9 months.
Shur having come out to Rhodesia in the early 1900's was friendly with old Meikle, who made a clause in his will, that Shur would be accommodated for the rest of his life in any of the hotels owned by the Meikle's Group. I remember in the early fifties seeing old Shur sitting at his table in a corner of the enormous Dining Room of the Grand Hotel in Bulawayo. There was also an old woman, dressed in the period of pre-World War One; the Ostrich Feather Hat and Bloomers type of fashion, at the same table, who must have been one of Meikle's girlfriends. She too was a hanger on. But a fine gesture on the part of Meikle, who remembered his countrymen from the days when the Colony was young.
After a few years Isaac bought Knowsley, a lovely farm. The buildings were of chiseled sandstone which was the vogue in that part of the Eastern Free State in those years. This house had indoor toilets and its own lighting plant, in fact every modern convenience. The stonemasons knew their job, they were craftsmen of the highest order. Reena and Myron were babies when I used to visit the farm, so it was years later that we met again. By then Myron had joined Isaac in running the farms.
The youngest uncle was Harry who became an Attorney in Pretoria, he joined a cousin of theirs, Grisha Issakow, whose mother was grandpa's sister. He married Freda Goldberg, one of five girls and two boys, they lived at 9 Elm Street Upper Houghton. Harry always talked of the Mosquito Farms in Peru we would inherit from Grandpa. Not everyone was aware of the origins of PARU'S then.
In 1933 Dad and I went up for their wedding. On the way up we stopped at Kroonstad, and went into a large wholesale business, it was Dad's friend (one of very many) Louis Smiedt who suggested that as it was so cold, it being August, that Dad get me long trousers. Thus I got my first grey flannels, the only problem was that they itched no end, this was rectified by wearing pyjama pants under the long greys.
Dad had two uncles, Cecil Alexander who remained a batchelor and Max Tcherney, who graduated as a medical practitioner and settled in Bloemfontein with his wife Bertha. They had a house at Whites Road, the place was immaculate in every way, everything bright and shiney, floors, furniture and ornaments. The garden was the tidiest I have ever seen, the paths and driveway were gravelled, the two rondavels, with their mosquito netting on all openings, dust free and clean.
They had no children. Bertha monitored Russian mail during the war for the Post Office.
In those far off days, there was no need to lock or close doors or windows, let alone burglar bars, etc.
Everyone was poor, very poor but happy. I do not think that people were envious of those who were more fortunate than they were. The reasoning appeared to be that it was possible for anybody to rise in station, by honesty and hard and diligent work, those were halycon days, prior to the Second World War, except in Europe with the Nazis and Communists.
Grandpa Schwartz had a saying - If you look above you (in station) you will feel dissatisfied with your lot, but if you look below you, you will be grateful for what you have. His interpretation of the theory of relativity allows everyone to grasp the basic idea. Dad on the other hand used a different simile, his was - If you sit with a pretty girl for an hour, it appears to be only one minute, but if you sit on a very hot stove for a few seconds, it seems to be hours.
Grandpa 's sister was married to an Issakow,and lived under communist rule, her sons Grisha and Israel (Algy) came to S.A. At one stage Algy was in partnership in business with Mark Dreitzer who later went farming on Le Souveneir, in the Westminster district. I always liked Mark and I think the feeling was mutual. I met him at the Victoria Hotel in 1950 on my way back to Rhodesia and will always associate him with the saying ‘met geduldt plukt mijn rosen’ which he used in regard to something we were discussing.
Grandma Deborah was a Podlaschuc, her father was in the tobacco trade, as a manufacturer of cigarettes, not quite the size of Chesterfield or Dunhill and with slightly fewer employees, probably one or two women rolling the tobacco by hand. He used to travel to Turkey to buy tobacco, using a donkey or two to carry the bales or bags back home, these trips took, in some cases months.
The story goes that he failed to come back home after (naturally) the last journey. I do not think that any mishap occurred except that he may have found a girl friend in some far off land. This story told to me by Cecil Podlaschuc some years back while they lived in P.E.
Update June 2002, Grandpa Pod apparently married a woman in Turkisk Palestine and had a family there too. To date not able to ascertain anything of them.
Cecil also told me that when he and his wife lived in Bloemfontein, (he was a cartoonist on the Friend newspaper, at that time) his Dutch wife, Marietje took a pair of shoes to the old shoemaker, to be repaired, and when she told him her name was Podlaschuc, without looking at her said 'no - impossible' that is a name of a cigarette. As he was from either Russia or Poland he knew our relative's product. Good wine needs no bush. We had in our family industrialists even in those far off days!
Grandma had two brothers- Charlie the attorney in Pretoria, and his wife Fanny they were both fanatical gardeners. Their four children, Naomi, Leo, Cecil and Phillippa were all brainy and very artistic. Poor Leo was killed in action early in the war. He wrote his last law exam just after joining up.
Uncle Phillip, lived in London with his wife Becky,and their three children. Renee, who married a French Count, and Bernard whose wife Freyda was one of the Addelson's many daughters, he was one of the leading bakery owners, hence was said to make the beigels. They went to the Cape and bought Bellingham Estate, after which he claimed he was a Count, they had no children. No getting away from it, we had yig-gas. in our family. Talk of ours being a unique family?
Lenard married a Gordon girl whose father had Ysebrand the paper bag makers. I met her brother Monty at the wedding and used to play golf with him when in Johannesburg. Through him I met Arnold Mizrachi whose father had the Assegai Tobacco Works, I smoked and enjoyed their tobacco.
Aunt Pauline worked for the Dept of Labour as a typist in the early 20's, and one day decided that she wanted to become a Medical Practitioner, so set off for Switzerland and after graduating came back to Johannesburg although practicing in children, never married or had any of her own. She was very friendly with Becky's sister Sarah Kazan and sent us a snapshot next to their little 1929 Austin at Lobito Bay, they took their car on the boat with them. No Hertz or Avis car hire in those days!
Fanny Podlaschuc was a Liebman and the Liebmans were in-laws of the Polliacks, thus her nephew Lenard, when he came out from England went to work for Polliacks Music in Eloff Street. That was when I first met him in, say, 1934. He was very British and had the la-de-da attitude and 'n suiwere Britse accent.
Uncle Phillip was with Ewing Macdonald shippers in London and wore the regulation City pin-striped trousers of the day, he was always impeccably dressed. A most dapper man. At one stage he had the Langham Hotel in Bree Street, he must have come to S.A. after the death of Becky.
When in London in 1927, I remember visiting them in their house, not far from Swiss Cottage where we were staying with Mrs Levine, I had my tonsils removed and the operation took place in the bedroom we occupied. The worst thing was the chloroform mask they placed to my mouth and nose. They are less barbaric nowdays and the anesthetics appear more sophisticated.
Whilst at Mrs Levine I had my first experience of a 'Wireless.' It was a crystal set! The aerial had a switch on the window sill to switch to bypass the antenna from the set to isolate it against lightning. Earphones were the order of the day, no such thing as loud-speakers. The BBC transmitted for about two hours during the day and about two at night.
While in London we went one Saturday morning to the renowned St John's Wood synagogue, I don't remember much of the visit. On one occasion we went to visit some friends, and I don't even know who they were, and took a train north west of London, arriving at an isolated, windy, cold, bleak station, The only other thing that I remember was the Nestle vending machines which dispensed those lovely, thin, wafer chocolates which cost half a penny. Sheer delight!
We had been invited to visit people out in the country and had to go by train! No being fetched by car like back at home where we had a car at our disposal. Even in those days we were spoilt, at a very early stage and age. From London we went across the channel to Paris of which I remember nothing. The only thing that I remember was walking past the Folies Bergere, also going into the Galeries Lafayette. I can't remember whether there was a restaurant there or not but I know that somewhere they fished out a particular fish which the patron had selected, from the water, and took it to the kitchen to be prepared and then served to the patron at his table. A rather barbaric gimmick. Enough to convert a person to vegetarianism. I often wonder why we still continue to eat flesh, either meat or fish?
The train journey to Marseilles and onto the French boat remain a blank in my mind. What I can remember of the boat trip, was at Algiers when soldiers from the Foreign Legion came aboard or disembarked there. Then there were men in little rowing boats fishing and catching sardine-like fish.
We even drove in one to the world-renowned Sheppards Hotel, where we had tea on the verandah, which I imagine had cane chairs and tables, either Madeira or Far Eastern bamboo.
From there we went to Port Said. While there we went swimming. The water must have been too deep for me, as Dad put me on his shoulders. We had a snap shot showing us in the water near a wooden pier. Mom didn't go into the water.
From there we went on to Suez and then a motor car journey to get us to Kantara. It was late at night and all I can recall was an open sided car, no windows or curtains. In that one car Egyptian taxi fleet, there were no sedan cars, I don't think that they had reached that part of the world yet.
I presume that we took a train from Kantara to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, but I don't remember.
In so far as the return journey home to S A, I have absolutely no recollection at all.
I came home with a silk tusse suit which I got somewhere along the line, maybe in Egypt, Dad got me pith helmet which I had for years, so the outfit was a complete match.
Another snippet that I remember was on the trip to the U.K. on either the Arundel or the Balmoral, which were the two ships we travelled on, Dad showed me a lone figure, and I felt very sorry for this man in the deck chair. It appeared as if he had no communication with any of the other passengers.
He was none other than Clemens Kedalie one of the first black trade unionists in S A (hailing from the Eastern Cape which was the birth place of the awakening by the masses for the struggle.)
He was probably the first political activist there was in the Union of S.A. It is very strange that I should still remember him sitting on the south side of the ship, the non-sunny side of the boat .
In 1932 when we came back from P.E. we had a house in Torbet Street, a few hundred yards from the Bloemfontein North School. At morning interval I would slip home, and Mom would have lovely brown bread rolls which she had just baked. It was at this school that Jonathan Bryer and I were in the same class. My first flame was a Phyllis B, who Jonathan pointed out to me in 1942, when I went home with him for the Easter Vac. and we went Dancing at the Wanderers Club. How disappointing she turned out to be. I never asked him how he remembered my pash, in retrospect maybe he had his eye on her too in standard two or three.
Mom was friendly with Mrs Dinn, whose husband managed Imperial Cold Storage in P.E.and then was transferred to the Bloemfontein branch. He was such a successful administrator, that they used him to get their branches into the black again. They had come out from Germany a few years earlier. She was most artistic and showed Mom how to decorate cushions. They made flowers, etc., by stitching wool over a metal shape of, say, a leaf, and then cutting the wool leaving the design. We still have several of these works of art around the house. She dressed her daughter Ina in smocked dresses, which she sewed herself. When I was at Wits I saw a freshette one year in these garments, and asked her if she was Ina. I had to explain that I recognised the blouse, and not her.
I read many books written by R.M. Ballantyne depicting the lives of the fur traders in northern Canada, e.g. The Young Fur Traders, etc., and those of Zane Grey who wrote about the dog White Fang. Also G H Henty's books on India. I travelled in my mind in those far off places in my early teens. Boys today do not know about those adventure stories dealing with the hardship of the adventurers of the mid-19th century. The forts and palisades. The trekking on the snow using dog teams. Surviving on pemmican, which was similar to our biltong, being dried meat pounded and made into cakes, and whatever they were able to shoot. There were no planes, helicopters or snow mobiles in those far off days.
The Hudson Bay Fur Company is still in existence, they were the buyers of the furs the trappers took to them, and the suppliers of their everyday requirements. Some of these books were Dad's and others were Harry's. Whatever happened to them I can't remember, maybe we sent them to Lester.
I made a small cart and taught the airdale Vicky, to pull it. Then there was the constant fear of getting a puncture on my bicycle, the dubbelkies were a darn nuisance and went though the tyres very easily. When you are ten years old, it is very difficult to mend punctures by oneself. One just does not have the strength to get the tyre off or on the rim.
Grandma Debora Schwartz's one sister was married to a Schultz.
Dad's cousin Mark Schultz came to visit us in Bloemfontein in 1932 and had an Armstrong Siddeley car, the first and probably the only one I ever came across. Thirty years later he came out to visit us at Vollendam, and as he was a big dairy farmer in Davel near Ermelo, gave us advice. His theory was to plant trees in the form of a right angled cross, so the cattle would have shelter from the winds, no matter from which direction it came. Actually a good tip!
Dad always told of the fact that after Mark retired to Pretoria, that habit dies hard, and that Mark would come back from town, and don his khaki trousers and shirt. No matter that he was no longer farming, he still wore his uniform, that he had worn for so many decades, when at home and on the farm.
Another cousin was Norman, he was a rather tall man and always sat upright, he took me once in his new car circa l932, and gave the feeling that not only 'don't touch' but don't breathe either, as any of these actions would damage or spoil his car. He started up a clothing wholesale business Norman Trading in Johannesburg, and then started up a clothing factory making mens' wear, under the name of Grand Clothing. Years later when in Rhodesia I represented him there. He made good clothes. In those days there was no nylon, the only synthetic was fiocco, made from casein, so naturally everyone said it was made from milk .
In 1941 I stayed with him and his wife Helen in a house high on the ridge at Westcliffe. The street was hundreds of feet below the level of the garage located at the end of a long winding driveway. Dad referred to it as Bergtesgarten, which was Hitler's hideaway!
The other cousin was Lippa, who had a business at Aberfeldy near Harrismith, which Dad would have to visit as he represented Waverley Blankets, while the Harris family owned it. One year he took Josie Block and me to Lippa and Liebba where we spent the night while Dad went through to the Mill. After the war Lippa came to East London and showed us his Datsun 1200 pickup.I had not even heard of this make, let alone seen one. He enthused about this vehicle, which I didn't believe.
Anyway a couple of years later we bought the first of probably five Nissan vanettes over a period of about ten years, they were jolly good vehicles. Rockey also raved about a Bluebird sedan she had.
There was Chaim who I met once or twice.
The other brother was Sam, who was married to a Violet or maybe a violent, apparently it was not a very happy marriage, I seem to remember that he met with an untimely death.
Then there was Ester (she was a qualified nurse) who was married to Karl Freund. They lived in Bloemfontein for a while. I remember their having young children when I last saw them, probably in the early fifties.
The other sister was Tzilla, she was married to a van der Westhuizen, I met her and her son Leon, a couple of times. On a trip to Durban, Dad and I stopped at Westville to see her, but she was not at home.
The other sister was Fay, she was married to Lazar Beitz, he was a go-getter. He always had some out of the usual type of business or factory. He had a cotton bag factory, Sabco Bags, near Halfway House such as was used to pack flour, salt etc. Dad also represented him for a while, but by then plastic bags had become the 'in thing' and cotton bags became too expensive, and superfluous.
During the depression years people took the 50lb flour bags, made from strong calico naterial and made dresses and shirts there from. It took ages for the dyes used in the printing of the brands to wash or fade out. The smaller sizes, say, 5lb bags, were used by everybody to put the sour milk curds into, when making cream cheese.
Having come to almost the end of these memoirs, I have now received courtesy of Leonie a forest of family trees, which have made me realise how insular my reflections have been. The pith of the matter being that we are generally self-centred, hence my continual reference to matters in which I feature. On the other hand I might be barking up the wrong tree!
My familiarity with the doings of the older generation, stems from the fact that, being so closely knit we were aware of each other. Like the stone thrown onto the pond the ripples extend outwards further and further into the distance.
The omission of so many members of our family who belong to the younger generation is only for the reason that I do not know them, and have never been able to keep up with their simchas, my apologies to you all.
Dad always mentioned the fact that Grandma Schwartz was wont to throw the water from the ice chest into the garden, and that the plants died. She was used to Europe where the ice that melted was pure water and not like the manufactured product which had salts etc added to the water to facilitate the freezing process. Strange that the large butcheries all had ice-making plants to produce the ice blocks which must have been in the region of 50 lb or say five gallons of water converted into the ice block.
I suppose that as the butcheries were one of the few food outlets that, at that time had cold rooms it was logical that they would have the facilities to make very large ice cubes on a commercial basis.
Now for the bitter bit - I have left for last 'all about me.'
After we sold out to L. Suzman Ltd, I stayed on for a couple of years, and then in 1949 went to Rhodesia, and took up with me several agencies; Abe's Calendars and Novelties, Norman's Grand Clothing, Jack Engelman's Matthews Drew Perm Ad Licence Holders, Sebba's A D S , which put me into the advertising side with gifts and novelties. I also had various U.K. houses, among them was Donald Campbell Plastics, (the son of the world speed king Malcolm)
Then I started up a small toilet roll manufacturing factory, after having bought an empty site out in one of the industrial areas — Workington - and had sub-contractors to erect a building. That is where I gained my experience of building. The machines came out from Sweden, and I installed them.
After a lot of trial and error the first rolls came off the machines. I even bought a ‘crupper platen’ press to print the wrappers, and learnt something about the printing trade. I imported the tissue paper for the wrappers, after having designed the lettering etc to be printed on them.
I met Nora Middelbeck, who had been sent by her boss Leo Raphaely to their Salisbury office, which was to be opened. Incidentally Dad was friendly with Fritz Raphaely (Leo's brother) and used to visit him when in London.
Leo had attended a trade fair in Holland two or three years earlier, and met her there and offered her a job. In this way she came to be in Rhodesia at the right time and in the right place to get the catch of the season, maybe she thought that I was a wunderkind. By now she must have realised that she didn't get such a wonderful catch, being landed with me.
We got married in 1955 and managed to get from Bennie Kass a lovely flat out Eastlea way. A two bedroomed flat with a very large lounge/diningroom and north facing balcony. Rockey and Benno went to Rhodesia on their honeymoon, and visited us there. We were rather unprepared for visitors then, all we had was a small carpet and four Parker Knoll chairs in the lounge part, and the gateleg table and two chairs in the dining side. Claire and Stan Lezar, also looked us up, when they toured Rhodesia on their honeymoon. They gave us a lovely hand-carved tray, which we still use forty two and a half years later.
We once brought Sailor the ridgeback-cross dog home to the flat, and what with the parquette floors, he kept on slipping, so we used two carpets to help him come into the room. He was kept out at the factory partly as watchdog and mostly as pet, when we decided to come back to S.A. he had to have Rabies Injections. This in itself constitutes a story of its own.
At the end of 1956 we came down to East London motoring down from Salisbury with the dog on the back seat, he needed all that space as he was a large chap. It was quite a performance with him on the trip, what with the overnight stops along the way, being the most onerous.
After having lived in Bonnie Doon, we bought a piece of ground beyond the airport, and built a house on the 265 acres. This time round I was actively involved in the building, from foundations to roofing to plumbing. I designed the building so that the rooms would be of such dimensions as to make sure that the materials, e.g. ceiling boards, roofing sheets, etc., would fit exactly and that there would be no waste of building material or time wasted in getting everything to be cut down to size.
Let it be known that I am not mean and count the pennies, far from it, I am frugal and save the pennies. Didn't Mr Macawber say income ONE POUND and expenditure NINETEEN shillings and ELEVEN pence happiness - whereas an expenditure of ONE pound and ONE penny leads to disaster.
A lovely story comes to mind - The teacher explained to her class that the word 'frugal' meant to save. She asked them to write an essay on the the word. Next morning they were asked to read out their compositions. The one girl wrote as follows; there was a beautiful princess who was lost in the woods, when lo and behold a knight in shining armour came riding by, she called out to him - frugal me, frugal me, so he frugalled her.
We had to use parafin lamps and gas cookers before Escom could get lines out to our area. The picnic we had without electricity was darn annoying. The paraffin fridge would consistantly start to smoke at 02H00 on a Sunday , and as there was food in it, we had to get up and start chimney sweeping to get it going again. I know we should have done the cleaning on a regular basis say on a Friday.
There were also veld fires, and it was amazing that these would occur round about Yom Kippur and one would have to get out in the dark to try to put the fires out.
The farm was a piece of bare ground when we started. I ploughed acres and acres, also had to remove enormous bluestone rocks the size of the tractor, to open up the lands. Not to mention the thorn trees which the labourers had to cut down. It is no joke having to clear ground, a costly and most time-consuming exercise.
Planting of feed crops and the dependance on adequate rain was also a constant headache. Cattle have to be fed and the veld does not supply sufficient nutriment at the best of times, let alone when there are droughts.
We built silos to hold the cheapest feed available, e.g. pineapple waste, i.e. skins and tops, which the beasts loved, except that being acid, the wear on their teeth was accelerated.
We got into the milking game, and the attendent headaches of cattle and labour not to mention all the diseases, mainly tickborne that the cattle become exposed to in the humid coastal area. The pity was that we were so busy there was no time to write up a diary. It would have been a best seller. There was a Dutch woman who went farming in Belgium, and kept a diary, which she then published in book form. She made more out of the book than she made out of farming!
After years of hand milking we built a milking parlour and installed a milking machine, this was an easier way to get milk from the cows, but still a chore.
When I decided to get a job with the Dept of Labour in 1972 we sold the majority of the cows and gave up the milking side for a while, then again back to the drudgery of extracting white gold from cows.
After twenty one years we sold out and then bought a small holding of 21 acres a little nearer town but in the same area. One never learns! We brought down a few heifers onto the smallholding. It was not long and we were again milking. Eventually after about 16 years we sold the cows and kept a few young beasts. But this time round there won't be any milking taking place.
That we live a few miles from the centre of town, doesn't detract from the fact that our style of living is actually superior to that of being in town itself. The air is less polluted as well as the noise levels being below that of the city. The pedestrian traffic is less than in the urban areas.
An added positive feature is that, if one is so inclined, farming activities, as well as work of an industrial nature can be undertaken, without the neighbours complaining. It is not considered as a residental area as such.
There is added advantage that neighbouring small holdings are far enough away, as well as being near enough, to sustain that measure of privacy and security which is so vital.
The production of crops on an intensive basis is not a viable proposition on a small acreage, and the hydroponic method is resorted to, but not to any great extent. The plastic tunnel is proving to be the best system. It is an intensive way to farm, and is akin to a factory method of growing vegetables.
Far less labour is required per ton of product harvested, while the irrigation and fertilisation is scientifically controlled. The maximum utilisation of nutrition and water is achieved by this system.
The Israelis perfected the dripline method of irrigation and it has proved itself a boon to farmers all over the world. Evaporation is minimised and the plant receives the maximum of moisture it needs.
The coefficient of efficiency if expressed in engineering terms would be something like nine tenths.
In any country which is subject to extended dry spells, a method capable of preserving scarce sources of water to give optimum results is of the utmost importance and necessity.
When in 2001 when we managed to dispose of Mariadale we gratefully moved to town. We had kept the family house in Selborne after Dad and then Mom passed away. so were able to move into our own property.
The absolute joy of not having to meet deadlines, or to need to be available at certain hours to attend to milking, or tunnel growing tasks, is sheer luxury. Having earned, I should hope, to enjoy a retired way of life, is fine, but encourages one to get lazier.
No one now needs to go out in all weather to see that the beasts are watered or fed or that gates are locked or any other chores which are needed to be done, irrespective or not of good or bad weather. What utter Bliss!
Manfred J. Schwartz ©2001


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